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Published on July 24th, 2015 | by ABCUSA

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ABC Voices from Durban – Second Edition

Baptist Christians from all around the world‎ have gathered in Durban, South Africa, for the 21st Congress of the Baptist World Alliance. The theme for this Congress is “Jesus Christ, the Door.” Among the attendees and participants in various categories of ministry is a group of American Baptists, who are reflecting in interviews about their time in Durban.

This second interview takes place at the Hilton, the Congress Hotel in Durban. Rev. Dr. Leo Thorne, associate general secretary for Mission Resource Development with ABCUSA, interviews Rev. Patricia Hernandez, national director of American Baptist Women In Ministry. Click here to view the first interview, posted July 23, 2015.

Question:
When did you arrive in South Africa?
Answer:
I arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Tuesday, July 14, after a 15-hour direct flight from New York, to attend  the Baptist Women Leadership Conference. This conference was being held there‎ prior to the start of the BWA Congress. The leadership of the women’s conference chose that location in order to cut travel cost for some of the participants. Women had to decide if they wanted to attend the Congress after the conference.

Question:
Is this your first BWA Congress, and why did you choose to attend this gathering?
Answer:
Yes, this is my first time attending a BWA meeting. I decided to come to South Africa to meet‎ women in leadership capacities from around the world and to be part of the global landscape in women’s ministry.  I believed that the conference would also provide me opportunities for obtaining new strategies, for networking, for sharing resources, and for learning from women how they are living out their call to ministry.

Question:
What has been the greatest impact on you as you experience this BWA Congress?
Answer:
I find this Congress to be extremely enriching‎. I am meeting women who are faithfully carrying the Baptist faith and I am encountering situations where women talk of the support they are receiving in ministry. I am also discovering that our global community can be large or quite small.

For example, I met a woman from Croatia, and she is currently teaching at the Prague seminary. This woman’s husband attended the World Missions Conference in Green Lake last summer. I was born in Yugoslavia when my parents were missionaries there, and this man had lived in the same house where my parents lived. How small can our world be at times?

Question:
What does a Congress like this in South Africa say to us as American Baptists?
Answer:
For me, it says that our God is alive, and we are well! We meet people from all across the world and they speak different languages; yet, we have one common faith. It is a joyous experience to meet God’s people from everywhere, and as we gather together for worship we sing together ‎and dance together. We share great spiritual energy among us. We affirm that God is alive and we are all God’s people.

We are also strengthened by the fact that God is still doing new things all over the world. Gatherings like these strength our faith, something I learned from a woman in Turkey. This global community of Baptists, for her, is helping to take away her shyness to share her faith in her country. She confessed that she is returning to her country with renewed boldness to do just that. Her words speak powerfully to all of us.

Question:
Is there a personal take-away for as a first-timer in this BWA setting?
Answer:
As a person on the national staff in the United States, I sometimes encounter people who are very critical of our work. But in this global setting, I see the church at its best! I have met people who have made great sacrifices to get to South Africa, but they came to share that God is moving in their lives and in their countries. They tell us boldly that God is still raising up people to do God’s work. They shared that they are proud to be Baptists. They are proud to be Christians. To see people of all colors holding hands across the aisles and worshipping together remind us of the great beauty of our Christian family. This global thing of beauty reminds us: Already, but not yet. We have a message of hope, and we make a difference!


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